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New bike path, sidewalk project raises questions from Mitchell resident facing assessment to help fund work

To help fund the project, property owners with land along the project areas are being assessed based on the size of their property.

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The newly constructed retaining wall waits for cement to be poured for a new sidewalk to be added along South Rowley Street in Mitchell.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — The city’s quest to connect sidewalks and bike paths throughout Mitchell is clipping along, but some residents are having to help foot the bill.

The roughly $1 million project will bring sidewalks and bike paths along a bare stretch of Rowley Street and Norway Avenue, which will connect to Cabela Drive and Burr Street on the south edge part of the city.

Terry Johnson, an engineering supervisor with the city, broke down the project funding during Monday’s Mitchell City Council meeting. According to Johnson, roughly $163,000 of the new sidewalk will be funded by property owners through a special assessment, while the city is covering $300,000 of the project cost. A $314,000 grant will make up the rest of the funding.

“This will connect several bike trails together. This will be an 8-foot bike trail on Norway and a 10-foot bike trail on Rowley. It will connect the Cabela Drive bike trail and Dakota Wesleyan bike trial,” Johnson said. “The only portion that property owners will be responsible for is 5 feet of sidewalk area.”

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The newly constructed retaining wall waits for cement to be poured for a new sidewalk to be added along South Rowley Street.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

On Monday, the Mitchell City Council held a hearing on the special assessment and provided residents who are impacted by the project to speak and ask questions.

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To help fund the project, property owners with land along the project areas are being assessed based on the size of their property. Some property owners are facing special assessments as high as $44,000 on the high end, while others – on the low end – are looking at costs of around $4,000 and $6,000.

Jill Thielbar– who was the lone property owner who spoke during the hearing – pressed city officials about the additional 2 feet of sidewalk being installed on the portion of where she resides.

“10 feet seems aggressive, especially with the adjacent on Norway Avenue being 8 feet. Why the additional 2 feet?” Thielbar asked.

In response to Thielbar, Johnson said the additional 2 feet of sidewalk was required by the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SD DOT).

“Being we are going underneath the bridge, the smallest bike trail we could go is 10-feet wide, which is the DOT standard,” Johnson said.

Johnson noted the property owners who are facing higher special assessments have “very big properties” that are about 300 to 500 feet long.

The bid for the project came in at a little over $630,000, which Johnson said will reduce costs.

As part of the project, the South Dakota Department of Transportation is building a retaining wall underneath the Interstate 90 bridge along Rowley Street. Johnson said new curb and gutter and road grading are also being incorporated into the project.

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According to Johnson, the state DOT has a contractor tabbed to take on the state’s portion of the project.

“Next year, they (SD DOT) will be putting in their portion of the 10-foot bike trail on the east side and sidewalk on the west side. We connect to it, as part of this project,” Johnson said.

Providing better pedestrian connectivity throughout Mitchell's walking and biking trail systems has been a longtime mission for city leaders. And the Rowley Street and Norway Avenue sidewalk and bike trail project is the latest effort to bridge gaps in Mitchell's walking and biking trails.

Related Topics: MITCHELL
Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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